Officials at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington reported that a student had contracted chickenpox, according to the student newspaper, The Whitman Wire.
According to an email to students from Chair of the Coronavirus Task Force, Peter Harvey–The student was treated by doctors at Providence St. Mary Medical Center and… moved into isolation housing that is separate from our designated COVID-19 isolation housing.
“Prior to this year, it had been many years since we have had a case of chickenpox on our campus,” Health Center Director Claudia Ness noted.
According to Ness, Whitman’s Health Center follows American College Health Association and Washington State Department of Health guidelines in requiring vaccines on campus. So while there are many recommended vaccines, only two vaccines, MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) and the COVID-19 vaccine are required.
Chickenpox (varicella) is easily passed from one person to another through the air by coughing or sneezing or through the fluid from a blister of a person who has chickenpox. Although it is usually not a serious illness, it often causes children and their parents to miss days at school and work. Most cases of chickenpox in healthy children are treated with bed rest, fluids, and fever control.
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Chickenpox can be more severe and cause more complications in immunocompromised persons, children younger than 1 year of age and adults. Severe complications include bacterial skin infections, bloodstream infections, pneumonia, encephalitis (infection of the brain) and death.
It is important to be aware that even healthy children and adults may develop serious complications and die from varicella. Another high-risk group is pregnant women who, if they become ill with varicella, can have pregnancy complications. Not only is chickenpox painful, but once you have been infected with chickenpox, you are at risk of getting shingles later in life, which is also very painful and can cause lasting chronic pain in adults.
The chickenpox vaccine is the best way to prevent becoming ill and spreading the varicella virus. It is very safe and prevents almost all cases of severe illness.
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